The Evolution of Modern Non-Linear Editing: Part 1 – From Tape To Digital

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Since the earliest filmmakers, there was always a need for editing – cut out the boring bits and keep the good stuff. With good old fashioned celluoid film, cutting apart and splicing pieces of film together is a rather intuitive process. Editing Machines like the Moviola have been around since the 1930s with Steenbeck flatbed editor becoming popular in the 1970s and still used in specialty circle today.

So how did we move to a digital form – the computer based “non-linear editing” machines that dominate the industry today? To answer that question – we need to dail back the clock of history and look at the early days of the industry that was the impetus for computerized editing: Television.

Live on Air

Our story begins in the era of electronic and mechanical engineers. Technologically speaking, the capability of broadcasting live television signals started rather early in the twentieth century. In fact November 2, 1936 was when the began transmitting the world’s first public regular television broadcast service.

But it had to go off air during World War II. That war required world economies to switch gears and produce military supplies, prevented the mass production and adoption of television. It wasn’t until 1948, three years after the war ended, that the first commercial broadcasts of television began in the United States – the medium caught on and exploded during the 50s.

People could now watch shows and news broadcasts in their homes… These shows were cut live in a studio that had several cameras hooked up to a video switcher that could switch between cameras. This signal sent over the air and through cables to affiliates in other parts of the network for broadcast. But everything had to be live as there was no way to electronically record the television signal. That was fine unless you wanted to delay the broadcast – say for a far away part of the country that was in different time zone. read more...

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